Pristine white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, swaying palm trees, warm sunny days, and some of the BEST dive sites in the world, the Maldives are for real! And nope, you don't have to burn a hole in your pocket to experience the magic of the Maldives. I recently did an 11-day island hopping trip around the Maldives covering four guesthouse/local islands, one resort island and 10 dives- all for $2000.
Fly into Malé International Airport. Depending on your flight timing, you might have to spend a night in Malé to catch the connecting ferry/speedboat to Fulhidhoo the next day. From the airport take a ferry to Malé city, which takes not more than 10 minutes and costs only MVR 10 or $1. There are regular ferries every 15 min and the last one is at 2 am. From the ferry terminal in Malé take a cab $2-3 to your hotel/guest house or anywhere on the island for the same fare. I spent the first night at Local Escape Boutique that cost me $90, including breakfast and a tiny plunge pool on the rooftop. With the current political unrest, I choose safety over saving money, but there are many low-cost accommodations as well. Although there isn't much to explore in Malé you could spend the evening visiting the national museum and get a feel of one of the busiest and tiniest island capitals in the world.
Fulidhoo Take the 10 am public-ferry from Villingili ferry terminal in Malé to Fulhidhoo (Vaavu Atoll). It takes 3.5 hours and costs $3.5. The ferry operates three times a week - on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and is quite comfortable. Alternatively, you could take the public speedboat to Fulhidhoo, which operates every day at 11 am except Fridays, from Villingili ferry terminal. It costs $40 for a one-way ticket, takes 1.5 hours to reach and should be booked in advance. I chose to take the public ferry as it made a difference of only an hour and it was a lot cheaper. I definitely recommend this option.
Wake up early and head out for your first day of diving. Typically for the morning dives, the boat leaves from the jetty at 8.30 am. I did both dives that morning at 'Dhiggdluvashi Kandu' and 'Bodu Miyaru Kandy'. There are usually four dives a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon/evening. You can choose to do all or some. The dive boat returns to the island at around 12.30-1.00 pm. You can grab lunch at the either of the two cafes on the island or at your guest house. Meals in the two cafes cost approx. $10 a person. Be back at the jetty at 3.30 pm for the afternoon dives. I did a night dive at 'Alimatha' (a resort island, which has a beautiful house reef) that was probably the highlight of it all. There were so many sharks and stingrays everywhere that I didn't know where to point my camera, it was absolutely magical! Nothing like the real world! The evening dive boat returns back to the island at around 7.30-8.00 pm. If you were to hang around by the jetty at night, you will see lots of stingrays coming to the shore (they are attracted to the light on the jetty) and you can feed them as well.
Today, I did two dives in the morning, 'Khandiboli Thila', 'Khunavashi Thila'. I just couldn't get enough of these dive sites. We saw a pod of dolphins swimming alongside our dive boat on the way back. The Maldives are simply incredible and an adventure lover's dream come true. I spent the rest of the evening at bikini beach and watched the beautiful sunset along with the locals on the other side of the island. You can choose to do more dives if the boat is going out as well.
Vaavu Atoll Today I went out for 3 dives. To 'Thola Bardi' in the morning, 'Mujaru Khandu' in the evening and back to 'Alimataa' for the night dive! I highly recommend this one to everyone going to dive in the Vaavu Atoll. It was simply magical. It was my last day of diving making it a total of 8 dives in 3 days but I definitely was craving for more.